A former Post Office solicitor has been accused of covering up his own failings by giving a misleading picture of an expert’s role.
Jarnail Singh said in his witness statement to the Post Office Inquiry on Friday that Gareth Jenkins was brought in as a ‘witness of fact’ to aid the prosecution of Surrey post-mistress Seema Misra. However Jenkins was an employee of Fujitsu, the designer of the Horizon IT system which had produced the shortages over which Misra was prosecutor.
The inquiry heard that attendance notes and emails from the time showed that Singh referred to Jenkins as an expert witness and he admitted he failed to ensure he was meeting his own duties as a prosecutor. He also met with Jenkins two months before trial, although there is no attendance note of that meeting.
Jenkins’ evidence was key to Misra being found guilty of theft and fraud and then jailed.
Jason Beer KC, counsel for the inquiry, said Singh ‘either didn’t understand [his professional] duties or simply didn’t care enough to see what those duties were’. He continued: ‘You’ve invented this idea that you were treating Mr Jenkins as a witness of fact throughout and not an expert, to cover for the fact that you very well know that you complied with none of the duties that you owed to him.’
Singh replied: ‘None of that is true.’
The inquiry heard that despite now regarding Jenkins as a witness of fact rather than an expert witness for the Post Office, emails from Singh said the organisation had ‘instructed’ Jenkins. Singh blamed the ‘day-to-day pressures’ of his job for failing to refer to Jenkins correctly.
Beer told him: ‘You know that you complied with none of the duties that you owed as a prosecutor, so you’ve rewritten history.’
‘You said, “I didn’t treat him as an expert at all. He was a witness of fact throughout”, despite how you’ve described him in these two emails and despite the fact that you attended a conference with counsel with him and chatted through his evidence.’
The inquiry heard that, before Misra's trial, Singh emailed Post Office counsel saying the defence team had ‘unreasonably and unnecessarily’ raised disclosure requests.
Singh said he could not remember what enquiries were made of Fujitsu for the data logs requested by Misra’s lawyers. Beer suggested that the email trail showed that what enquiries were made had been ‘watered down’ and then not addressed.
Friday's hearing ended without time for cross-examination by lawyers representing victims of the Post Office scandal. Singh asked at one point for a break in proceedings so he could speak with his own solicitor. Proceedings were also halted at one point on the intervention of chair Sir Wyn Williams, who urged the witness to ‘concentrate on Mr Beer’s questions and answer them a bit more succinctly’.
Singh will return as a witness next year. The inquiry continues.